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Change in healthcare is nothing new. Without it, we'd still be anesthetizing patients with ether and using leeches to restore the balance of bodily humours. But with the exponential evolution of technology, healthcare is discovering that it had no idea what change was really about.

Healthcare, Circa 2000

As a business sector, healthcare faces several unique challenges, including:

  • Cost containment: Faced with skyrocketing medical costs, U.S. government and business called for the advent of managed care in the early 1980s. The goal was to control the cost of care by managing its delivery. For the people and organizations that provide healthcare, managed care created a critical need to contain costs in order to maximize reduced reimbursements—all without sacrificing quality of care.

  • Antiquated IT/legacy systems: In the beginning, there was fee-for-service. And when the only problem with reimbursement was how fast an organization could get it, healthcare witnessed the birth of its first automated computer information systems. Financial in nature, these systems were designed to get the bill out so an organization could get the reimbursement in, as quickly as possible. Then along came DRGs, prospective payment and managed care, and with them, healthcare's need to justify what it did by proving it produced an outcome worth paying for. Suddenly, finance-centric systems were insufficient. They couldn't collect enough patient data or the type of it needed to truly analyze care.

    And healthcare information systems aren't just the wrong type, they're the wrong age—old. Perhaps it is a resistance to change. Or budgetary votes for cutting-edge diagnostic systems over state-of-the-art information ones. Or a combination of both. Whatever the reason, healthcare, as an industry, is woefully behind the times in terms of up-to-date information systems.

  • Consolidation: The need to cut costs and compete has led healthcare to adopt a "survival of the fittest" mentality. Consolidation has created new organizations made up of very different entities that, in truth, are not as integrated as they believe themselves or would like to be. Survival demands that enterprises seamlessly and efficiently provide and manage care across entities and across the continuum of care, both now and in the ever-changing future.

    Like any other business arena, healthcare is increasingly finding that information—and the technology that produces and manipulates it—is essential to providing solutions to its business challenges.

The Healthcare IT Environment


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